+Why do dogs pull?
+ Training methods and the effects they have on your dog
+ Where should I start?
+ Clicker training
Does your dog pull you down the street, around the park or up to every passing dog or squirrel? Do not worry, you are certainly not alone, struggling with the family dog, pulling you around on a walk is one of the most common training problems owners have.
Why does a dog pull? No, your dog is not trying to be the ‘alpha’ or be the‘boss’. Dogs pull on the lead for a number of reasons, initially dogs pull dueto excitement or over arousal but, over time allowing this behaviour to continue teaches the dog that pulling not only is the normal behaviour, they also have this unwanted behaviour reinforced by getting to the places they want to go as a reward.
See a walk from your dog’s point of view. You are full of energy and excitement with hundreds of new sights, sounds and smells all around you – the environment is forever changing, and exciting things keep appearing all around you.
It is this level of arousal and excitement that leads to dogs pulling.
1. The dog wants to get from point A to point B – the dog pulls to get to point B. The dog enjoys being at point B and learns it is pulling on the lead that allowed him/her to get to point B and have a good time.
2. As the dog pulls it affects something called the oppositional reflex –this means that when your dog pulls the pressure of the collar pulling against their neck (caused by the owner holding the dog back at the end of the lead)causes the dog’s body to lean/strain into the pressure causing the dog to pull EVEN MORE!
You may have heard a friend or outdated trainer tell you that you need to ‘correct’ your dogs behaviour, this is definitely not a method of training/dog handling we or any recognised canine organisation would ever advise for you to do to change any unwanted behaviour.
Instead of focusing on what we want the dog NOT to do, we need to focus on showing the dog what we WANT them to do.
It takes time and patience to learn a new skill, teaching a dog to loose lead walk correctly can be incredibly difficult for both dog and owner.
Dogs repeat behaviours because they are reinforced in some way. An adult dog has spent their entire life reinforcing (learning) that pulling on the lead is the right thing to do. Because of this it will take time to teach a new behaviour in place of the pulling without the use of aversive techniques.
Examples of aversive techniques- using a slip lead/half check/choke chain to correct a dog, using a prong collar, using a shock collar, using a pet corrector spray, using a water pistols etc.
Aversive techniques using physical/verbal corrections only suppresses unwanted behaviours. The dog no longer does the unwanted behaviour because they are avoiding the punishment given to them. This is avoidance, the dog is not trained, it is not offering the right behaviour we want, it’s simply not doing the unwanted behaviour. This is not teaching the dog anything at all.
Dogs learn by associations,so using aversive techniques can be your downfall to a well-mannered, well trained dog. The dog will learn that YOU the owner produce unpleasant or even painful things.
In some cases, the dog can also associate the painful and unpleasant correction with something in the environment. So, if your dog pulls when they see another dog and you use an aversive correction your dog can learn that the sight of another dog made that unpleasant/painful thing happen causing your dog to be fearful or reactive.
Whether you have a new tiny puppy, an experienced adult dog or a rescue dog you can teach your dog to loose lead walk and end the pulling. It doesn’t matter what breed you have, any dog can loose lead walk from Collies to Huskies, Chihuahuas to Great Danes.
The first step would be to find a qualified aversive free trainer/behaviourist to help you. Using aversive free modern training methods not only builds a stronger bond with your dog but it also teaches the dog the new behaviours we want using only kind training/dog handling. The dog shows no signs of stress or avoidance and actively CHOOSES to give the new behaviour instead of the unwanted old behaviour.
Ensure you manage your environment and start training your dog somewhere easy where we can set them up to succeed, a quiet place rather than a town centre full of people and dogs is a much better starting step.
When our dog’s lead is loose and relaxed, we will reinforce this by giving a food/verbal praise/toy reward and reinforce by allowing the dog to reach the destination they want to get to.
The moment the lead is tight, or the dog pulls we will stop and not allow the dog to reach its destination without returning to a loose, relaxed lead.
We want our dogs to understand when the lead is loose on the collar/harness good things happen. When the lead istight everything stops and goes away. To beable to enjoy the good things they must return to a loose lead.
It is very important to always reinforce the good choices our dogs make, that way the dog will repeat the behaviour and keep making good decisions without being asked.
+ If the dog looks at us and offers us their focus by choice = reinforce.
+ If the dog starts to walk faster or on a tighter lead then chooses to slowdown = reinforce.
+ f the dog looks towards an exciting direction but does not pull = reinforce.
+ It helps to work on calm behaviours before you leave the house, so we start the walk calm instead of over excited.
+ Practising some focus exercises and focus games before leaving the house is also essential so you know your dog will be paying attention to you and is ready to learn.
+ Exercising your dog inside the house/garden half an hour before the walk can also help to burn off the dog’s initial energy so they are less eager to get to places on their walk.
Clicker training uses the noise of the ‘click’ as a marker to mark the desired behaviour at the exact time it happens.
Clicker training is not essential when teaching your dog to walk on a loose lead, but it is very useful and can help your dog learn and understand what you want of them much quicker.
A marker is used to pin point the exact behaviour we want to reinforce. This training is so precise it can beused to teach dogs to sneeze and even wink on cue!
A clicker is NOT used to get your dogs attention as are call aid or as a replacement for a whistle.
A ‘click’ MUST ALWAYS be followed by a reward.
It is important to always introduce any piece of . Just because as humans we put collars and harnesses on our dogs it doesn’t mean they are naturally comfortable with wearing one. Equipment designed to tighten when our dog pulls should be avoided as these are aversive and can be very, very painful for some dogs.
The collar – It is recommended to use a collar with a quick release buckle over a collar with a traditional buckle. Here are the 2 main benefits to a quick release collar:
1) Safety: in an emergency situation the collar is easy to unclip. Under force the collar will release itself. This helps prevent dogs coming to harm if their collar is caught on something or caught on another dog during play.
2) convenience: the collar can be put on and taken off in a matter of seconds, making it a firm favourite for many dog owners.
A headcollar when used correctly is a training aid giving you better control over your dog while training loose lead walking. Headcollars DO NOT teach a dog not to pull and SHOULD NOT be used to stop a dog pulling without training. They can cause serious injury to the dog if the dog pulls insistently or lunges while wearing one.
This is a piece of equipment that is often incorrectly used and incorrectly introduced to the dog causing them to injure themselves though stress.
Some makes of head collar close the dogs mouth where as others cross over at the dogs throat and cause breathing complications while in use. The most comfortable headcollar would be a Dogmatic Headcollar. This MUST be introduced correctly and to be used whilst training your dog.
The harness – harnesses DO NOT make your dog pull more, this is a widespread misleading false piece of information.
A harness is the most comfortable and safe option when walking your dog whether they pull on the lead or not.
Dogs have very sensitive necks with many damageable components which can and will be injured by continuous pulling when wearing a collar or damage caused by corrections(pulling the lead sharply around the neck).
A harness designed and marketed as a ‘no pull’ harness should be avoided as its likely these will cause pain/discomfort to your dog.
The best and most comfortable harness is The Perfect Fit Harness. This harness does not tighten but gives you excellent control of your dog and it does not restrict the movementof the dog’s shoulder as some harnesses do.
Tips to remember
+ Training is the only thing that will teach your dog to walk without pulling.
+ Walking without pulling is Loose Lead Walking NOT heel, question the experience/knowledge of your trainer if they refer to this as heeling.
+ A harness does not encourage your dog to pull. A harness is the most comfortable and safe option to use to walk your dog.
+ Any dog can be trained to walk without pulling.
+ Dogs learn by reinforcement so we must reinforce the behaviours we like.
+ Avoid aversive training methods this can cause stress and anxiety for our dogs. Using aversive training means your dog will behave out of avoidance for the unpleasant/painful correction – not behave because we have trained them appropriately.
+ See a qualified aversive free trainer/behaviourist and they will help you.
+ Be consistent with your dogs training, make sure that everyone who walks your dog, uses the same training techniques you are.
Loose lead walking can be very difficult to master, there is so much to understand and learn. There are many challenging situations you may face and without further training you may not be prepared for them all. This is why we are offering our Loose Lead master class training sessions at a discounted rate.
All of our Masterclass are four hour long sessions starting with Bronze and working your way up to Gold standard. Buy Bronze now for half price, Silver and Gold are much more advanced and we share insider trainer techniques and bullet proof methods that will work in every on lead situation. Silver and Gold are priced at £150 each or you can buy as a bundle Bronze, Silver and Gold for just £250.
Buy any of our Masterclass packages and we will include a months free indoor park membership.
If your dog has not improved their loose lead walking to our given Bronze/Silver/Gold standards we will refund 100% of your money.